The Blank Theatre’s HOT TRAGIC DEAD THING is Controversial and Well Made

Gia On The Move, Guy Picot, The Blank Theatre, theater reviews, Los Angeles, teen issues, new plays

Reviewed by Guy Picot

The Blank Theatre has a long history of developing and championing new plays through its Living Room Series of rehearsed readings.  HOT TRAGIC DEAD THING by Ashley Rose Wellman is one of over six hundred plays that have benefited from the program, and this full production marks the playwright’s professional debut.  It tells the story of Bekah (Nikki DeParis), a vulnerable and gawky teenager who has lost her father to suicide and is struggling to fit in. At school, her tragedy has made her the victim of cyber-bullying, and at home, she is having to adjust to her mother’s new partner and his popular jock son, Miles (Reed Michael Campbell). Her alienation drives her to the basement, and the darker corners of the web, where she becomes fascinated with the Columbine school shootings.

Miles splits from his hot girlfriend, McKenna (Siet White), and has a fight with his jock bro Blake (Max Banta), thus losing his cool reputation. He and Bekah are now similar outsiders. Their relationship intensifies, much to the anger of their respective parents Greg (Wes McGee) and Claudia (Marguerite Moreau). They suspect that the obvious is going on down in the basement, but the truth is much more disturbing.

Despite the punchy title and the ostensibly edgy subject matter, HOT TRAGIC DEAD THING is really quite a conventional, well-made play. Wellman captures the intensity and trauma of teenage life very well, and the ramping up of tension as the stakes get higher is nicely paced. The final twist might have left us with a smaller play than I was expecting by that point but it was still perfectly satisfying.

DeParis is outstanding as she illuminates the troubled Bekah. Her journey from naive, awkward geek-in-a-neck-brace to woman-on-a-mad-mission is credible and touching. Campbell is also convincing as he navigates the waters between boy and man.

Christopher James Raymond directs, eliciting strong performances from all the cast, and serving the writer perfectly. The largely naturalistic set, by Aaron Francis, makes good use of Blank’s two levels and allows for an interesting depiction of online trolling.


Written by Ashley Rose Wellman
Directed by Christopher James Raymond
Featuring (in alphabetical order): Max Banta, Reed Michael Campbell, Nikki DeParis, Wes McGee, Marguerite Moreau, Siete White

Photo (above) by Victoria Anne Greenwood: Nikki DeParis

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